Chipotle Mexican Grill got its start in Denver, and in October it will be bringing its hometown a major thank-you present: the free Cultivate Food, Ideas & Music Festival.
The one-day festival, which Chipotle introduced last year in Chicago, drew 17,000 people to a city park for demonstrations by celebrity chefs, live music, exhibits by food artisans and other activities emphasizing fresh and affordable food made with sustainable ingredients. "We wanted to create an event that is really experiental, that would be fun and entertaining for a wide range of people," explains Chris Arnold, Denver-based spokesman for Chipotle. "It exceeded everyone's expectations in every way." And so Cultivate will return to Chicago on September 15 -- and then will land in Denver's City Park on Saturday, October 6.
Chefs Richard Blais (The Spence, HD-1, Flip Burger Boutique), Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Son of a Gun) and Amanda Freitag (of Chopped and Iron Chef America will be on hand in both Chicago and Denver; joining them here will be Michael Chiarello of Bottega and Chiarello Family Vineyards in the Napa Valley and Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson, chef/partner in Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Locale.
In addition to those chef demonstrations, Chipotle plans to fill the Meadow in City Park with an artisan tent featuring a variety of local artisan-crafted foods for sampling and purchase, a tasting tent with specialty beers and wine, and a kid's tent; Chipotle will be serving special dishes created for Cultivate, as well as select items from ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, the concept that debuted in Washington, D. C. last year.
Chipotle is working on its list of invited food artisans, which produce everything from cheesemakers to ice-cream makers. It also plans to add some local bands to a lineup that already includes Best Coast and Okkervil River.
The goal is to get 15,000 people to City Park -- "a great location," Arnold says, "very central, easily accessed, in the heart of urban neighborhoods."
Why did Chicago get the first Cultivate Festival? "We considered a lot of locations last year," Arnold explains. "We landed on Chicago for a few reasons: it's a good market, in the heart of the Midwestern agriculture belt, so you get lots of great farms and partners. And it has a really strong food culture."
Denver will be the second city to host a Cultivate Festival for many of the same reasons, including its "really good up-and-coming food scene," Arnold notes. And then there's the fact that it's Chipotle's home town: founder Steve Ells opened the first store in 1993 at 1644 East Evans Avenue, where it's still going strong.
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Today, there are more than 1,250 Chipotle locations around the world -- including three in the United Kingdom and one that just opened a few weeks ago in Paris; before the end of the year, there should be a store in Vancouver. But first, Denver will experience its first Cultivate Festival.
to get a taste for what's coming, take a look at the 2011 Cultivate Festival here: